Perfect episode!

It was so smart to save Rintaro for last. (I mean, there’s Ren, but even Ren’s got this look of What Did I Get Myself Into, so I can’t imagine we’ve got a lot to do on that front.) Rintaro is the most interesting character this show has, and I don’t mean that as a slight against this phenomenal cast of memorable characters. It’s maybe the best ensemble a Kamen Rider series has ever had… but Rintaro’s the standout. He’s loyal, but that loyalty is wrapped up in obligation and duty. He’s a good friend, but he believes that putting his own needs ahead of the Sword of Logos is heresy. He’s absolutely destroyed by everyone else’s actualization, despite wanting the best for the people he loves.

If you need to have an A-plot for the episode where the B-plot is Reika Makes Her Move, there’s maybe none better than Mei reaching out to Rintaro in hopes that the group schism which is giving Rintaro an ulcer can be brought to an end. Once again, the series is very smart about the tools it uses to pry swordsmen from the SoL. Like, we’ve seen Rintaro and Touma try to hash out their differences and find common ground before, but they just end up shouting past each other until it’s too late. But Mei! Mei’s always been the one who had Rintaro’s number, and knew how to get him to be okay with basic emotional states like Happiness and Pride and Anger. She’s the one who was integral to Rintaro and Touma seeing that they were stronger together than apart, and they were all stronger for being a group. I mean, it was the three of them who made that promise to–

Wait, weren’t there four of them in that promise?

Hey, Kento’s the new Calibur! While I’d suspected it as soon as Kento was Poison Smoke Cursed back a dozen episodes ago, I can’t pretend that this was either a too-obvious reveal or a bad one. It’s exactly who it should be, even if I can’t begin to guess what the show’s going to say he’s been up to while everything else was falling apart. If this is the episode where our heroes start to realize the scope of the forces arrayed against them, this is when you want Kento to return with a big ol’ question mark at the end of his name. We’re in a story where it’s nothing but bad options for our characters (Rintaro’s too ashamed and distraught to even Henshin, dooming Touma to yet another traumatic episode), so why not conclude it with their lost friend returning in the clothes of their dead enemy? It’s too deliciously macabre to avoid, and I’m glad the show saw the potential.

All this goodness and praise, and I haven’t talked about the happiest surprise of the episode: Reika’s super fun as a villain! Way too long after I’d gotten sick of her one-note laconic imperiousness, here she is as Kamen Rider Sabela to kick the shit out of Slash and Buster in one of the most epic fights this show has put on. I mean, she’s OP as all hell, at a level that will surely get scaled back as the series progresses -- like, her being smoke when she’s hit and solid when she’s hitting is the sort of power set that even Yuri would think needs nerfing -- but it all makes for a fight that I’m still replaying in my head. That shot in the beginning of the fight when they charge her, SMOKE, she walks towards camera, DUDES FALL. So good!

It’s an absolutely unstoppable episode, from haunting initial dream sequence to haunting final interdimensional therapy session. Y’all can bring up nearly any single second from this episode and I’m gonna go A THOUSAND PERCENT. Beautifully shot, exquisitely scored (Sabela’s musical motif!!!), breathtakingly performed, and wonderfully written. What an achievement. I hope everyone involved – even Ren and Reika’s actors – feel proud of this one.